printable banner

U.S. Department of State - Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

The Deputy Secretary's Trip to the Balkans and Asia

FPC Briefing
James Steinberg
Deputy Secretary of State
Foreign Press Center
Washington, DC
March 29, 2010

Date: 03/29/2010 Location: Washington D.C. Description: James Steinberg, Deputy Secretary of State, briefs the foreign media on his upcoming trip to the Balkans and his recent travel to Asia at the Washington Foreign Press Center on March 29, 2010. - State Dept Image


1:30 PM

Deputy Secretary Steinberg: Thanks very much. It’s good to see you.

Before I begin with what I planned to say let me begin by expressing my condolences along with the whole of the administration, as the President expressed them earlier today, on the horrible bombings in Moscow. Our hearts go out to the families and we share the sense of outrage that I know the people of Russia feel. Obviously we’ll do everything we can to work with them on this terrible event.

As you heard, I want to take the opportunity today, a week out from my next planned trip to the Balkans, to talk a little bit about the purpose of this trip. Since we have so many good Asian friends here, I thought I’d also say a word about my recent trip to Asia.

From the beginning of this Administration we have made clear that the United States remains deeply committed to building a stable and prosperous Balkan region by helping all the countries in the region to achieve both their European and Euro-Atlantic aspirations, and by encouraging them to move with progress towards strengthening the rule of law, fighting crime and corruption, and developing economic opportunities for all the people in the region. That commitment is not just a rhetorical one. From the beginning we’ve been engaged through frequent high level visits to the region starting with the Vice President’s trip last May to Sarajevo, Belgrade, and Pristina. I myself have had the opportunity to travel to the region a half a dozen times since becoming Deputy Secretary, and I have to say for the most part I’ve been very encouraged by what I see in the years since I last served in government.

In this past year I’ve had the opportunity to participate in two very significant events -- the accession ceremonies at the State Department for Albania and Croatia when they joined NATO last April; and last June when Kosovo joined the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. I think that reflects just how remarkably far the countries have traveled over the last decade.

In addition to that we’ve seen in the past year that the European Union has granted Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia visa liberalization, and all the countries are moving forward in their efforts for further European-Atlantic integration. We also saw progress this past December on Montenegro’s accession to MAP. We’re also pleased to see the positive movement on Croatia’s EU accession.

So now I will make my next trip to the Balkans and Central Europe April 6th to 8th next week to follow up on these events and to continue the current progress.

On this trip I will visit Slovenia, Bosnia, Serbia, and Kosovo.

The first stop will be in Slovenia, and I would like to note that Slovenia has been an important partner not only in promoting stability in the Balkans but as a NATO ally elsewhere around the world and particularly in Afghanistan. The recent Brdo Conference held by Slovenia was a welcome example of how the countries in the region can come together to promote stability and opportunity. We share Slovenia’s interest in a stable and secure Western Balkans and want to work with Slovenia to keep these trends going.

While I’m in Slovenia I look forward to discussing with the leaders there Slovenia’s plans for its engagement in Afghanistan and explore ways in which the United States and Slovenia can continue those efforts in the future.

We’re especially pleased to see positive movement on the EU accession agreement with Croatia which I also hope to discuss while I’m in Ljubljana, and look forward to talking about how we can boost economic cooperation and bilateral trade between our countries.

Next I’ll go to Sarajevo, my fourth visit to Sarajevo, along with the Spanish Foreign Minister, Miguel Moritanos. And I’d like to note that on each of these trips that I’ve made to the Balkans it has been with EU counterparts which reflects the deep cooperation and partnership that we have in working together and the strong synergy and common vision that we have.

While we’re there we plan to meet with the tri-presidency, with political party leaders, and High Representative Inzko to offer our support and encouragement for further progress on political reforms in advance of Bosnia’s October elections. And particularly important in this election year, we urge the government and leaders to work together in ways that serve the interests of all of the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and this means continuing to make progress, even in the face of the elections, on Bosnia’s integration into Europe and Euro-Atlantic institutions. We don’t want to see Bosnia fall behind its partners in the region. It deserves and should be right in that same rank as the others, and we will do what we can to help facilitate that.

I think it’s particularly important in this election year for all of the leaders, all the party leaders, to have a positive vision about their country, to avoid the kind of divisions that can hamper Bosnia’s progress and to work to set the conditions for even further progress after the elections in October.

After Sarajevo, I will go to Serbia, to Belgrade, and then to Kosovo to meet with government officials and community leaders to discuss a variety of issues on our bilateral agendas. Again, with the goal of promoting stability and the integration of Western Balkans into Europe and EuroAtlantic institutions. We’ve been very encouraged by some of the steps that Serbia has taken towards EU integration this past year. Besides visa liberalization, Serbia submitted its application for EU membership and the EU agreed to unfreeze Serbia’s interim trade agreement. The EU also indicated it would take up consideration of Serbia’s stabilization and association agreement this summer.

I’ve also been encouraged with my meetings including with the Interior Minister here a few weeks ago that Serbia understands the importance of cooperation with the Hague Tribunal as a key to Serbia’s future integration into the EuroAtlantic community. The [ICTY] Prosecutor Brammertz said he was satisfied with Serbia’s cooperation in his December 2009 report to the UN, and that’s a very important step but we expect Belgrade to continue to focus on cooperation with the ICTY and to make every possible effort to ensure that the remaining fugitives -- Ratko Mladi� and Goran Had�i� -- will be arrested and transferred to The Hague.

Following my visit to Belgrade, I then will go to Pristina. Kosovo’s independence has been a force for stability in the region. It’s experienced enormous progress in its first two years as an independent state including successful first elections in November, strengthening regional cooperation through its border demarcation with Macedonia, and establishing diplomatic relations with its neighbors, and improving interethnic relations through the decentralization process. So while I’m there I look forward to meeting with President Sejdiu, Prime Minister Thaci, and Foreign Minister Hyseni to discuss how we can work together through the full implementation of the Ahtasaari Plan initiatives through decentralization and strengthening the rule of law and economic development.

Despite the great successes we’ve had, we have a lot more work to do, but the United States along with the EU will stand as a partner to the countries in the region for a brighter, stable, prosperous future.

For the benefit of our Asian colleagues here, and before I open for questions, I also want to say a few words about my recent trip with Senior Director Bader to Asia, and our discussions in China and Japan.

I think it’s fair to say for the first 15 months of the new administration here, U.S.-China relations have been extremely constructive. If you’ll appreciate it coming from me, I think we avoided the dangers of transition that often happen in our relations with China and were able to start a very stable and promising course on our relationships, beginning with a phone call between President Hu and President Obama in February of last year; their meeting in London at the G20 in April, and culminating in President Obama’s visit to China last fall.

In addition, at the level of the Cabinet, we’ve seen a deepening of U.S.-China ties in the creation of the Strategic and Economic Dialogue chaired on our side by two cabinet secretaries -- Secretary Clinton and Secretary Geithner -- which really reflects both the breadth and the depth of our relationship.

I know in recent months there’s been speculation about whether there’s been a change in that relationship. The Chinese response to our arms sales to Taiwan, to the issue of Tibet and Google, as well as our concerns about China’s economic and trade policy and military modernization. Director Bader’s and my trip was an opportunity to put these issues in perspective and to discuss with our Chinese counterparts how to build on our strong dialogue to seize the opportunities and the need for us to work together, as well as to manage our differences.

During the trip Jeff and I had an opportunity to reiterate the core approach that President Obama laid out in his address to the first meeting of the S&ED as well as during his visit to China. That message, of course, is that the United States seeks a relationship with China marked by a positive and pragmatic cooperation in which we expand our areas of mutual interest while candidly addressing our differences. Our bilateral relationship with China rests on a longstanding and firm foundation pursued by Democratic and Republican administrations alike since Nixon, Carter and Reagan. The centerpiece, of course, is our one China policy, which has not changed. Indeed, this past year we just marked the 30th Anniversary of the normalization of our relationship with the People’s Republic of China under that one China policy. We’ve made clear that we do not support independence for Taiwan and we oppose unilateral attempts by either side to change the status quo. And we in particular welcome recent improvements in cross-Strait relations and hope that they will continue to expand, and we urged our counterparts in Beijing to continue to work to that end. That PRC-Taiwan dialogue contributes to the objective of a peaceful resolution that has been long central to our approach.

On Tibet, we reaffirmed our position that we do consider Tibet to be a part of the PRC and do not support independence for Tibet, but we strongly support continued dialogue between the Chinese government and the representatives of the Dali Lama to resolve the differences.

On security issues, we stressed the desirability of intensified dialogue to address our concerns about China’s military modernization and to provide reassurance about China’s plans and intentions. We also stressed the need to continue our work together to get the DPRK back to our Six Party Talks and to move forward promptly to give life to the dual track strategy vis-à-vis Iran and its nuclear program.

On economics and trade, we stressed the need for all countries to do their part to assure sustainable, global economic growth and to avoid zero sum solutions that in the end benefit no country.

We look forward to the continuation of the S&ED in Beijing later this spring, and we’re pleased today to officially welcome Ambassador Zhang as the PRC Ambassador to the United States.

In Japan we welcomed the opportunity to continue our in-depth dialogue with Foreign Minister Okada and his colleagues in this very important 60th Anniversary year of our security relationship. Far-reaching discussions on both bilateral and regional issues were the subject of our meetings, and we previewed some of the issues that Foreign Minister Okada will be discussing today with Secretary Gates and later in Canada with Secretary Clinton. We reiterated our commitment and confidence in the new DPJ government and appreciated their commitment to work with us to provide a strong foundation for the alliance for the next 60 years.

With that I’ll stop and I’ll take your questions.

Question: My name is Keida Kostreci, IIP/State Department.

About the trip in the Balkans, you mentioned the progression of the region and the stability that the independence of Kosovo has brought. Will you address in Belgrade and Pristina issues of cooperation between Belgrade and Pristina which appears to be a little difficult right now?

Deputy Secretary Steinberg: We certainly will talk about the relationships between Belgrade and Pristina. We recognize that we have differences with Serbia on this issue, but we also recognize there are opportunities and common interests to work pragmatically to address some of these issues. We strongly support the work of EULEX and we want to talk about how we can facilitate that, and we want to talk about how we can build bridges between the two communities within Kosovo itself.

We recognize that despite the differences, the formal differences, that there are common interests there, and that it’s important to work in ways that do not create greater instability in the region. So we’re going to be very much focused on pragmatic levels of cooperation and how to facilitate that, and to increase dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina.

Question: My name is David Nikuradze. I represent Georgian television station Rustavi 2 in Washington, D.C.

Secretary, how would you comment, helicopter carrier Mistral deal between France and Russia Federation? Many Eastern European countries are really concerned. They think that this will be quite dangerous for regional stability.

Deputy Secretary Steinberg: I think this is an issue that the President has paid some attention to, but I think we need to discuss with our French colleagues how best to promote stability in the region. We recognize that these are decisions that each individual country has to make, but we want to make sure that there’s a full exploration of all the consequences of that and a better understanding about the implications of any sales. So I think this is an opportunity for us to have a good dialogue with our French counterparts on this to understand better their thinking and their understandings, and to make sure that this is fully explored and discussed within NATO as well. I think although this is a national decision on arms sales, it’s important and we owe it to each other as colleagues within NATO to have a full discussion about any implications that arms sales might have.

Question: This is this is Tulin Daloglu, with Haberturk. It’s a Turkish newspaper.

Turkish Foreign Minister had a telephonic conversation with Secretary Clinton yesterday. Can you tell us whether there is any movement, any promises from the U.S. side so Turkey finally can send the Ambassador back? And also, I know that this issue, this press conference is about the Balkans. The Turkish Foreign Minister was recently in Balkans as well. Up until last month we were told by both the U.S. officials and the Turkish officials that you had been working in very close cooperation and that there was no problem in the relationship. In fact many of the Turkish officials had described the status of the relationship as being perfect. But this month we see that we need to build confidence between the two close allies. Can you put this into context for us as to what really is going on? Is this only about the passage of the Armenian genocide resolution? Or are we facing something much bigger than that in the U.S.-Turkey relationship? Thank you.

Deputy Secretary Steinberg: Those are all excellent questions and worthy of a speech in its own right. I had a chance to talk a little bit about this at my recent appearance at the Atlantic Council, and as you know, I expressed at the time our desire and eagerness to have Ambassador Tan back here. I think it would be a good and valuable channel. He’s a well respected ambassador and somebody we look forward to working with here in Washington.

As you noted, the Secretary and the Foreign Minister did speak over the weekend which was an important opportunity to continue what I consider to be one of the closest dialogues that we have with any of our partners. We have a very important relationship with Turkey as evidenced by the President’s own visit to Turkey, the Secretary’s own engagement or frequent visits and phone calls with the Foreign Minister, and my own extensive exchanges with the Foreign Minister. We met last in Munich in February, and I hope, although I can’t formally confirm it at this time, that our paths may cross while we’re in the Balkans next week. I understand that the Prime Minister will be in Bosnia for the economic conference, the investment conference there. If I can get the schedule to work on both sides, perhaps we’ll have an opportunity to continue that conversation in Sarajevo as well, because we have a common interest in the Balkans, something that the Foreign Minister and I have discussed on several occasions.

During some of my previous visits to Sarajevo I had a chance to meet with the Turkish Ambassador there who is a very valuable partner in dealing with the challenge and our common desire to see Bosnia move forward into NATO and into the EU.

More broadly, I think as I said, we have a very strong cooperative relationship and it’s one that we continue to want to build on. Obviously the Turkish side has made its concerns about the House committee vote known. We’ve also made clear our position on that resolution and that position is very clear. So we hope that this is a basis to move forward, because we have a lot of business to do to together, and I hope that the conversation between the Secretary and the Foreign Minister contributes to that reaffirmation of the strong partnership that we have and the continued desire for close cooperation.

Question: Is there reason for us to believe that the Ambassador will be sent to Washington before April 24th?

Deputy Secretary Steinberg: That’s a decision you're going to have to ask the Turkish Foreign Minister about. That’s their decision.

Question: Turks are saying that it’s up to Washington to decide as to what they can say, so the ball is on your court according to the Turkish officials.

Deputy Secretary Steinberg: I think it’s a decision that they’re going to have to make as to whether they think it’s something they should do, but we would certainly welcome his return.

Question: Mina al-Oraibi, Asharq Alawsat Newspaper.

If I can just take you to the Middle East for a moment, to speak about developments in the Middle East. How concerned are you about the stalling in any movement towards proximity talks? There have been clear statements from the Arab Summit over the last couple of days of the possibility of peace given Israel’s refusal to give up settlement activity and also to continue with their housing activities in East Jerusalem. So what would be the next steps forward in your assessment and how serious are the strains in the relationship between Israel and the U.S.? Thank you.

Deputy Secretary Steinberg: We’re continuing to work very hard to build some momentum for progress in talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians. We think we have a framework that would allow for the beginning of discussions through proximity talks. At the same time, recognizing the importance of direct negotiations. We’ve had a very intensive exchange with the Israelis including during Prime Minister Netanyahu’s most recent visit here, and we continue to discuss how to create the conditions to make sure that those talks not only take place, but that they’re successful. We attach a great deal of importance to moving forward. We’ve made clear that we expect both sides to take steps to facilitate that dialogue because we recognize that creating a good environment is necessary to allow the parties to tackle the very difficult final status issues. We’ve made clear in our discussions that it’s critical that both sides take the steps they need to and avoid steps that would prejudice those discussions. And those discussions continue between us and the Israelis. It’s an intensive exchange, and we remain committed to try to move that process forward. We think it’s in the interest of all the parties -- the Israelis, the Palestinians, and the Arab world generally -- to continue to make progress. So we will continue to work this very hard.

Question: My name is Feng Yan from Xinhua News Agency. Thank you for bringing us your recent visit to China and Japan.

In a joint communiqué issued during President Obama’s visit to China last November, the U.S. side stated that it follows the One China Policy and abides by the principles of the three U.S.-China Joint Communiqués. So does the U.S. side still maintain this position?

Deputy Secretary Steinberg: The U.S. position, our one China policy is unchanged, and as I said, it has long and deep roots. As President Obama said when the S&ED have met here last year, he looks forward during his term to mark the 40th Anniversary of President Nixon’s historic opening to China. And as I said, we also marked last year the 30th anniversary of the establishment of full normalization with the PRC which meant, it was a very clear indication of our one China policy. We moved to formal recognition of PRC and established only unofficial relations with Taiwan. Those have been embodied in a number of agreements that we’ve reached with China. They are part of the fabric of our one China policy. We have not changed our view on that and it’s served us very well. We have consistently, through Democratic and Republican administrations understood those agreements and those principles to be the foundation of building an ever-stronger relationship. So there’s no change. It’s a commitment that we understand to be at the bedrock and the foundation of the relationship between the two countries.

Question: Good afternoon, Mr. Steinberg. This is Halil Mula, RTV21, Kosovo. Thank you for visiting Kosovo on your trip.

My question is Serbia is still ruling north of Kosovo with parallel structure, as you are aware, with what is not allowed in Kosovo-Serb community integrate into Kosovo society. Is blocking Kosovo’s participation into regional meetings like the one that happened a few weeks ago in Brdo, Slovenia.

War criminals Mladi� and Had�i� are still at large though it has been past 15 years from the war in Bosnia.

On the other side, visas were lifted for Serbia and Serbian citizens while those that did suffer from those wars, Kosovo and Bosnia, are still in a cage. What message are you taking there? Is any door for those two communities into integrating into the EU community?

Deputy Secretary Steinberg: Thank you for those good and extensive questions. Let me try to touch on a few of them, and then I hope I’ll have a chance while I’m in Pristina perhaps to say even more on these topics.

As I said, I think we view Kosovo’s independence and the steps that have been taken over the past two years as a very positive force for stability and prosperity in the Balkans, and we have worked very hard in the international community to broaden the base of international support and international recognition for Kosovo.

We recognize that this is a difficult issue for Belgrade and for Serbia, and we hope over time that we can overcome those differences. In the mean time it’s very important to take practical steps that benefit all of the people in Kosovo, both Serb and Kosovar alike, and it’s also important that we work on implementation of the Ahtisaari Principles and decentralization as a way to give all the communities a sense of stake in the government, and that’s what we’re going to be focused on. I think in the near term these pragmatic steps to strengthen the role of EULEX, to strengthen cooperation between the communities, of tolerance, of respect, is really critical, and over time I hope this will be a path towards a resolution of the formal questions. And we do see very strongly that Kosovo’s future is a EuroAtlantic future and we’ve been very encouraged by the fact that Kosovo’s neighbors have taken very positive steps to reach out a hand to Kosovo.

I was particularly struck by the decision by Montenegro to extend diplomatic recognition and move to exchange ambassadors, and Macedonia as well. I think this shows there’s a broad recognition, a practical recognition in the Balkans about Kosovo’s future, and we need to work closely with Serbia to try to manage that issue going forward.

We very much want to see Kosovars enjoy all the benefits that others in the region can have.

I would just note on the visa liberalization issue, you mentioned Bosnia, this is really an issue that’s in the hands of the Bosnian leadership. The steps are there, the path is open for Bosnia to move forward with visa liberalization and other steps towards integration. It just is a question of the Bosnian party leaders seeing the bigger picture and recognizing that their differences are differences that need to be overcome for the sake of their own people.

Question Nicolae Melinesai, Romanian National Public TV. Thank you very much for taking the question.

You’re going in an area where Romania has been very active in promoting stability and the integration of the new republics from the former Yugoslavia, so how much can you make benefit of this experience Romania has to keep a balance in the Balkans and help the other countries to get over all the difficulties that still persist, considering the fact that Romania is a NATO member and is an EU member and has a strategic partnership with the United States. Thank you very much.

Deputy Secretary Steinberg: Thank you for that question. Romania, indeed is a very valued partner of the United States and has particular insights and values to contribute to this process of integration of the whole of the Balkans. I have to say that the role of the neighbors generally -- Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, and others -- has really been a very important contributor to sending a strong signal about the potential and the value of integration into Europe and EuroAtlantic structures, and also the fact that that door is open and the success that you’ve had in Romania to make these transitions over the last 15 or so years is a strong beacon, I think, to the countries of the Western Balkans to follow in that step. We’ve seen others following in the path that you’ve charted.

So the United States particularly values its ability to work with countries like Romania to help us understand the dynamics of the region, to provide valuable insights and also channels of communication to the leaders of the region. You have close ties to Serbia and others and we value your ability to help work with us on those, even where we have differences. We want to extend partnership to all the countries in the region and really encourage them and reassure them that we are on the side of these aspirations that I think are widely shared throughout the region.

Question: Tolga Tanis, from Hurriyet Turkish Newspaper. Two questions about the Nuclear Security Summit.

They Prime Minister has announced that he will not come to the summit. Is there an action that the State Department will take to invite him again? For example, by a telephone conversation, by Mr. President or Secretary Clinton?

A second question, the U.S. has invited Georgian President, Armenian President to the summit, but not Azerbaijan President. Is there any message to Azerbaijan regarding this Armenian, Turkish protocols process? And because the process has stopped and the Turkish Parliament will not pass the protocols probably. Is there a message to Azerbaijan from U.S. Department regarding this process?

Deputy Secretary Steinberg: On the first, I don’t have any comment. You’re making an announcement. I don’t have any official confirmation of that so I’ll wait until I hear that.

On the question of our engagement with Turkey more generally, I think I’ve answered that question. The President had an extremely valuable meeting with the Prime Minister here in December, and that engagement is a very strong one and we will continue to look forward to opportunities to strengthen those relationships.

Vis-à-vis Azerbaijan, I had a chance to meet with President Aliyev in Munich a few months ago and had a chance to stress the value and the importance we place on that relationship. The Secretary subsequently has spoken with him on the phone. Azerbaijan is a very important partner to the United States. It’s a strong force for peace and stability in the Caucasus. We work very closely on a broad range of issues. And we are very committed to the Minsk process and to working with both Azerbaijan and Armenia to move forward on this. We have appreciated efforts by President Aliyev to support the work of the Minsk Group. We know these are difficult issues for all of the parties concerned, and that we need to find creative ways to overcome the differences because in the long term, deeper integration in the Caucasus, just as we’ve been discussing in the Balkans is in the interest of all the region and we want to see improved ties among all the key countries in the Caucasus along with Turkey. There has been an opportunity to move that forward. We admire the leadership of both Prime Minister Erdogan and President Sarkgsian to move forward with the protocols. We want to support that process. At the same time we move forward on the Minsk process to try to resolve the differences between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Question: Keunsan Kim from Voice of America.

I want to ask you about North Korea. Despite U.S. government and other countries’ efforts, there is no sign so far that North Korea will come back to the 6-Party talks. It seems like it again is stalemate.

So I want to ask your assessment about the current situation of 6-Party dialogue. I also want to ask you to elaborate U.S. government’s future or additional effort to persuade or press more on North Korea to come back to the 6-Party Talks. Thank you.

Deputy Secretary Steinberg: I think that one thing that’s very clear at this point is that all of the parties in the talks recognize that if we’re going to make progress on the full range of the issues, there needs to be a return to the Six Party Talks. There are a number of issues that are of concern to North Korea and those are issues which can be addressed in the context of the Six Party Talks. But we’ve made clear and the other countries who are partners -- Russia, China, Japan, and South Korea -- have made clear that the way forward on those issues, both multilateral and bilateral, is to return to the talks and recommit to the 2005 declaration.

I think that while the North has expressed the desire to address some of those issues, we’ve said we are prepared, as we were in the past, to address those issues in the context of the 6-Party Talks.

I hope that, from the perspective of the North Koreans, they indicate an understanding of that general principle, at least our position on that principle, and the position of the others, and that they will take this seriously, they will see that there’s an opportunity there to move forward on a full range of issues, but we can’t move forward without reestablishing that framework and we can’t move forward unless there’s a real willingness to address the denuclearization issue. Because while there are many other issues of concern, that is the framing issue of the time. Once we develop some confidence between us on North Korea’s recommitment to the denuclearization process, then I think we can see a much more promising path forward on both bilateral and multilateral relations.

I remain hopeful that the North Koreans will understand that dynamic and see why it’s in their interest to return to that course, why it would be a productive way of pursuing the concerns that they have, and we remain open to pursuing that path. We will continue to work with our partners to make clear both points to the North Koreans, that there is only one path forward but that path is a way which offers the potential of a very different future for Northeast Asia.

Question: My name is Kyun Mi Kim with the Seoul Shinmun Korean Newspaper.

Is there any signals or any changes from the North Korean side whether they are willing to come back or from the U.S. side, whether you will be having additional meetings with the North Koreans before this April summit on the nuclear issue in Washington?

Another question is, you have, there has been an accident, a battleship sinking accident in Korea. And we still don’t know whether it was the cause of that accident. So do you exclude the possibility of North Korean connections? Do you have any ideas on that?

Deputy Secretary Steinberg: On the second question, we have no reason to believe that this was involving a third party. Again, obviously the full investigation needs to go forward, but to my knowledge there is no reason to believe or to be concerned that that may have been the cause. But I think it’s important to allow the South Korean military to conduct a full investigation so that they can fully understand that. We certainly express sympathy to the South Koreans on that terrible tragedy.

I think in the end of the day we hear a variety of things concerning the views of the North Koreans as to whether they’re prepared to move forward and under what circumstances. But we’ve made clear what needs to happen and we hope that they’ll respond positively. We remain engaged to try to elicit a good result and a good answer from them. We’ve had extensive conversations with all of the others in the talks to make clear that we have a common view on that. And when and whether that might bear fruit is something that remains to be seen. There’s a door that can be walked through, and we hope that the North Korean side is prepared to do that. We believe there is a real opportunity here. Whether it opens in the near future or not, that door is open. I think there is a strong sense of a good time to make progress. We’re certainly ready to do so and we look forward to hearing from the North Korean side that they share that view.

Question: My name is Andrej Brstovsek. I’m with the Slovenian daily Dnevnik. I have two questions regard to visit to Slovenia.

First, what message are you bringing to Slovenia in regard to [inaudible] process of the [inaudible] agreement with Croatia, and what is your view on possible referendum of that issue in Slovenia which would probably prolong this process?

The second question, it’s interesting, you are visiting three countries that have some difficulties underway to the Western integration plus Slovenia. Is there a message for Slovenia? And do you see a bigger role of it in the Balkans? If so, could you be more specific about this role after the recent Brdo summit which ended without Serbian participation?

Deputy Secretary Steinberg: There are a lot of questions there. Let me begin by saying that on the accession issue, that we appreciate the efforts of the Slovenian leadership to move that forward, and to try to overcome some of the obstacles that have stood in the way of Croatia’s membership in the EU. We think Croatia’s membership in the EU, going along with its accession to NATO last year is an important step of a leading country in the region to firmly take its place in the EuroAtlantic community. And while I know there are some remaining difficulties that I think both sides are working hard, and we’ll do what we can do to encourage both Slovenia and Croatia to work constructively along the path that they’ve been moving forward. And obviously how that’s decided in terms of domestic politics is a decision for domestic leaders, but I think it’s important to keep in mind the larger prize. It’s not just Croatia but it’s Slovenia and everyone else who will benefit if Croatia joins the EU. This is one of those wonderful cases in which it’s not a zero sum, but it’s a positive gain, and so I think both sides should keep in mind the potential benefits and show the flexibility and sensitivity to the challenges of moving this forward.

In terms of the signal, yes. I think Slovenia’s a very very positive model just as Croatia has been for the rest of the Western Balkans. We’ve seen that countries could have emerged from the difficulties of the conflicts of the 1990s and become stable, prosperous, full members of the EuroAtlantic community and we’ve appreciated the leadership from Slovenia. I’ve had a chance to meet regularly with the Foreign Minister who has been an important partner in helping not only to guide us in our own efforts along with the EU to support integration of the Western Balkans, but also as an interlocutor with the leaders there. So I think that everybody can see in the examples that are being taken by Slovenia and by Croatia and others, that there is an opportunity and a real open path. This is not just an illusion, but a reality that’s available to the rest of the region, if only they take the steps that are within their power to do. So we’re very grateful for both the model and the leadership of Slovenia and look forward to continuing to work with them on these issues.

Question: Paul Eckert of Reuters News Agency.

Did you come away form Beijing with any inkling or sort of insight into Chinese thinking on whether or not to send President Hu here in April for the Nuclear Summit? And does the State Department have a view on the currency valuation issue that has erupted on Capitol Hill and among some prominent economists?

Deputy Secretary Steinberg: You’ll be shocked to hear that as a general matter the State Department does not comment on currency issues. I’ll leave that to Secretary Geithner and our colleagues in the Treasury. But we did have a chance to talk about some of the economic issues. As I said in my opening statement, I do think it’s important for all of us to keep our eyes on the prize here. We have an interest in creating a stable economic environment free of protectionism and open to trade and investment that will facilitate economic growth globally. We need a balanced strategy on growth. China has a critical role to play in providing that balance and I think it’s important as China develops its full range of economic policies that it take into account the contribution that it can make not only to its own economic prosperity but to global prosperity.

So I think that on the first question, we did not actually discuss specifically the question of whether President Hu would attend the Nuclear Security Summit. As I said, the visit was an attempt to talk about some of the broader and longer term issues in the relationship, so the specifics of whether or not he would attend was not actually a subject of our conversations.

Question: Guohua Zang with CTI TV of Taiwan.

Mr. Secretary, have you seen any real movement in U.S.-China relations since your visit to Beijing? How do you see the Chinese concern that if President Hu or Premier Wen Jao Bao comes to Washington for the Nuclear Summit and three days after the summit China is designated as the currency manipulator by the Treasury, it would be a huge slap on China’s face. How do you see that concern?

Also, is China’s opposition to arms sales making it harder for the U.S. to sell F-16CDs to Taiwan which Taiwan’s military needs desperately? Thank you.

Deputy Secretary Steinberg: On the question of whether there’s been progress, yes, I think there has been progress. I think that one of the things that I come away with, and I believe our Chinese counterparts come away with, is that when we have the opportunity to sit down and discuss in detail our perspective and views, that we find broad common ground that may point the way to allowing us to navigate the difficulties in terms of how we achieve common objectives. I was grateful for the very serious level of dialogue that Director Bader and I were able to have with very senior Chinese officials. We were treated with great courtesy and it really was a very in-depth discussion. And as I said, it has allowed us to reiterate some basic principles that underlie the relationship which I think do provide a strong framework for our moving forward.

And I don’t want to say that there’s a direct linkage between these things but I’ve been very encouraged by the fact that on issues of concern to us we have seen some progress. We’ve had a recognition I think by our Chinese counterparts of the danger of the Iranian nuclear program and the fact that there does not seem to be a willingness on the Iranians to take the very generous offer that the P5+1 made to them to try to find a way to build confidence. And despite the very serious efforts which we support of the Chinese to encourage diplomacy on the part of the Iranians, they don’t seem to be responsive. So we’ve had a level of engagement that’s involved the Chinese as well as the Russians and the other members of the P-5+1, beginning to explore what that second track of the dual track strategy is going to be.

Similarly, I think across the board, we are having very useful discussions on the full range of issues and as I said, we’re grateful to have Ambassador Zhang here as it gives us an important channel to continue those discussions. I also had a visit, as you know, from my counterpart the Vice Foreign Minister a few days ago, and that was also another opportunity for us to discuss the full range of issues and reiterate our strong commitment to a strong cooperative and positive relationship.

I would say on currency, that’s an issue for the Treasury Department.

Question: On arms sales?

Deputy Secretary Steinberg: I think that what is important and what we made clear is the basic core of our policy, which is our policy is to support peaceful dialogue across the straits, to encourage both sides to take the steps that they can to do that, and the United States is very supportive of seeing both sides move in that direction.

Question: Hi, Ilin Stanev, Capital Weekly, Bulgaria.

Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov said if the United States goes full speed ahead towards its anti-missile shield, Russia will reconsider its position on START Treaty. How do you think this will affect the deployment of the anti-missile shield?

Deputy Secretary Steinberg: I don’t think it’s useful to try to respond to press reports about all of these issues. I think we’ve had a very good discussion with our Russian counterparts about what our intentions are with what we call the phased adaptive approach. We’ve made clear that the missile defense that we contemplate is not directed at Russia, is not designed to affect Russia’s strategic deterrent, that we wish to cooperate with Russia in dealing with the issue of theater missile defenses, that the challenge that we face from the evolution of missile programs, particularly from the greater Middle East, is one that’s not just a problem for NATO but for others as well, and therefore we have a common set of interests there.

So I think we have a strong basis for dialogue on this question. I think we’ve had a chance to discuss that in a variety of fora with the Russians and we will continue to address it and continue to stress our key point, which is that we’re very clear about what the purpose and the nature of these missile deployments are, and they pose no threat to Russia or Russia’s core interests.

Thank you very much.

# # # #